New Democrats and Conservatives saw their fortunes rise Tuesday in the key battleground of Ontario as Liberal support was depleted across the province.
The Liberals lost 16 of the seats they held in the last federal election, with the Conservatives seizing 11 of them and the New Democrats grabbing five.
Conservatives eroded Liberal ridings on the edges of the Greater Toronto Area, but failed to make inroads into the city. The party ousted Liberals in five GTA ridings, including a victory by star candidate and former journalist Peter Kent in the former Liberal stronghold of Thornhill.
Most of the NDP gains were in northern Ontario, where they stole Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Nickel Belt, Thunder Bay-Rainy River and Thunder Bay-Superior North from the Liberals. The fifth win came in the heavily industrialized Niagara region riding of Welland, with a narrow win of 491 votes over the Conservatives and the Liberal incumbent trailing far behind.
Ottawa remained unchanged, while in Toronto the only switch happened in Parkdale-High Park, where former Liberal leadership contender Gerard Kennedy snatched the riding from Peggy Nash in a hard-fought battle.
In south-central Ontario, the Conservatives captured five ridings from the Liberals: London West, Brant, Kitchener Centre, Kitchener-Waterloo and Oakville. In Kitchener-Waterloo, Conservative Peter Braid won by 73 votes above the Liberals.
In one of the province's high-profile losses of the night, Tory Lisa Raitt took the GTA riding of Halton from outspoken MP Garth Turner, who defected to the Liberals after he was kicked out of the Tory caucus.
'Sometimes life isn't fair'
Even as the Liberals posted losses across the country with Stephen Harper's Conservatives elected to a strengthened second minority, former Liberal leadership contenders Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff stood by leader Stéphane Dion.
"It's a result that I think gives us a chance to build and continue to be the official Opposition," said Rae, who was re-elected in Toronto Centre.
Rae said Dion "gave it everything he's got" during the 37-day election campaign. "Sometimes life isn't fair," he added.
Ignatieff, who secured another term in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, refused to speculate on whether a leadership race is in the cards but said the party needs to closely examine the reasons for the low standings. He stressed all parties must keep the economy at top of mind.
"We're staring a recession in the face," said Ignatieff. "That changes everything.… It means we really have to put the country first."
Gave it our best shot: Layton
NDP Leader Jack Layton might not have secured a spot as the next prime minister, his oft-voiced lofty goal during the campaign, but he did secure re-election in his Toronto-Danforth riding.
Even in his acceptance speech, Layton made reference to his high hopes in the campaign. "To put ordinary families first, I ran for prime minister," he began his speech.
"Now we didn't quite get the gold medal this election, but we did give it our best shot. And it was a very good shot indeed."
Layton congratulated Harper but noted that electing a minority government meant "no party has a mandate to implement an agenda without agreement from the other parties." He called on parties to put the "acrimony" of the campaign aside to come together in public interest.
Layton's wife, MP Olivia Chow, was the only other NDP winner in Toronto after she prevailed in a tight race with Liberal candidate Christine Innes in Trinity-Spadina, winning by 3,475 votes according to unofficial results.
Bellwether riding again sides with winning party
In the bellwether riding of Sarnia-Lambton, voters yet again cast their ballots on the side of the government, continuing a 40-year-long tradition by re-electing Conservative Pat Davidson.
All the Conservative cabinet ministers in Ontario were re-elected — with several withstanding Liberal assaults, including Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in Whitby-Oshawa and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Health Minister Tony Clement — who won Parry Sound-Muskoka with a mere 28 votes in 2006 — handily scored another term in the northern Ontario riding.
The vote-rich province is home to more than one-third of the 308 House of Commons seats.